Maulana Wahiduddin Khan I Call to God

Having a purpose in life makes one overlook all other considerations. One is willing to endure every hardship to achieve one’s goal.

In November 1922, a thirty-four-year-old Spanish priest by the name of Fr. Henry Heras (1889-1956) landed in Bombay harbour. India fascinated him, and, feeling that it would be fertile ground for Christian missionary work, he decided to settle here and pursue his missionary activities.

Being a foreigner, he had to find some base from which he could operate. He decided, therefore, that he would enter the teaching pro­fession, establish himself, and then start preaching both inside and outside the college campus. With this objective in mind, he went to meet the principal of St. Xavier’s College in Bombay. After satisfying himself on the score of his testimonials, for the young priest was a historian with a degree in history from his own country, the Principal asked him what branch of history he would like to teach. “Indian history,” was his immediate reply. The principal then asked him what he knew about the subject. His answer was frank. “Nothing.” The principal was then naturally sceptical about how he was planning to teach the subject, but the young Fr. Heras simply replied, “I shall study it.” Obviously, there was something in his demeanour which struck the Principal as being sincere and determined, for he gave the young man what for him was going to be a very difficult appointment. Undaunted by the task ahead of him, Fr. Heras took up the study of Indian history with such tremendous zeal that he not only became a competent teacher of the subject, but eventually established himself as a historian of the same class as Sir Jadunath Sarkar and Dr. Surendra Nath Sen. The Heras Institute of Bombay today stands as a living memorial to Fr. Heras and his life work. Had Fr. Heras not been imbued with missionary fervour, he might have remained quite content to secure a job for himself, teach European history with which he was perfectly familiar, and receive a regular pay packet at the end of the month. But because he was so determined to place himself in a posi­tion where he could communicate with the youth of the country at close quarters, he took up the extraordinarily difficult task of learning a completely unfamiliar subject in order to teach it.

If one has a purpose in life, one will overlook all other considera­tions, in order to concentrate on achieving one’s goal. Everything one does will be directed towards that end. Mundane profits, temporary benefits and easy living will have no attraction for one so inspired. Losses and hardship will be manfully endured if this serves to bring one closer to one’s objective. There are many Muslims in the world today who say they would like to engage themselves in ‘missionary work’. But are they truly ready for the selfless struggle that such work entails?